Kathryn Lopez

Farr focused on a 14-year-old girl with Down syndrome, Rimsha Masih, a Pakistani Christian. She was reportedly searching the trash for items to help her poor family and happened upon pages of the Quran, which were either already burnt, or would be because of where she unknowingly put them. "Then this child, utterly incapable of discerning what she had done, if anything, was arrested, charged with blasphemy and put in prison," Farr explained. "In Pakistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East, blasphemy is a crime which can bring many years in prison, torture and even execution."

She's been released on bail and is being held at an undisclosed location on account of concerns that mobs similar to the type that attacked U.S. embassies might attack her and her family.

This is a "humanitarian outrage," Farr said, and it's also a dangerous trend. "No one should insult the sacred beliefs of another. It is an assault on human dignity and respect for others. But the malevolent idea that the proper response to defamation of religion is criminal prosecution, let alone violence or murder, is a dangerous problem in the Muslim-majority world," he continued.

"My religion is insulted regularly by The New York Times and The Washington Post," Farr, a Catholic, said. "I frequently am outraged. But I try to respond with my voice or my pen. That is the only way people with deep differences can live together in a civilized society."

It is imperative, Farr believes, that the United States "become more effective at supporting in these countries those Muslims who know that Islam can be defended without violence, and that embracing religious freedom is in their vital interests." Which brings us back home.

At a speech at Georgetown, Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl pointed to a "gathering storm" that "has not been created by religious influence on policy, which has been a part of the American experience since the very beginning," but by an "increasingly bold ideologically driven and progressively intolerant secular humanism" that insists that it is the only legitimate voice in the public square. Religious faith has always acted as a "conscience" in our nation. In marginalizing that voice, we lose our grip on traditional norms.It will become increasingly difficult for Americans to articulate these values, as we saw in that initial U.S. embassy statement and Secretary Clinton's near-apology for the freedom of speech, if we don't understand this. Each man and woman has an innate dignity granted by God. Once we've relegated that to just another opinion, we've lost the civic religion upon which we were founded. Once we've surrendered our moral voice, Rimsha's best advocate will be lost to history.


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.